Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Beautiful 1970 Plymouth Cuda Convertible

It's Easter today and so this post will be short. But I wanted to share with you all this amazing video of a 1970 Plymouth Cuda Convertible I ran across.

Enjoy the holiday!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Keep Baby Car Carrier Handles Folded Down!

Photo copyright: Dmyto Samsonov, stock.xchng

I'm a parent and I vividly remember the time I brought my first child home from the hospital. I think I read through the installation manual for the car seat a few dozen times and checked that the base was cinched down as tight as possible. I was incredibly worried that something would happen to my baby, and my worry was completely justified.

When my first child was only a few months old she was involved in a car wreck. Some idiot who didn't look before turning left out of a business' parking lot T-boned our car while my wife was driving. Thankfully baby and mother were not hurt, partially because I had been so obsessive about getting that car seat in correctly.

There are several considerations when it comes to installing a car seat the right way. One big one when it comes to the baby carrier style seats is that you must fold down the seat's handle once you secure the seat in the base. I have noticed for the past several years that a shocking number of parents around here leave the handle up!

If you leave the baby carrier's handle folded upward, the seat can come loose from the base, causing your baby and the seat to potentially go flying out of the car during a violent car accident!

I have heard people say they keep the handle in the upright position because they attach toys to the handle so the baby has something to play with while riding in the car. You might as well be giving a toy full of rat poison for you child to be playing with, because it's about as dangerous.

Please, if you don't have a baby or are done having kids, spread the word around to people you do know that parents must fold these handles down. I hear of car accidents where baby carriers have gone flying out of windows and into traffic on a pretty frequent basis. It's such a simple thing and yet it can save lives.

Fold those handles down!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I Think I'm in Love With the New Cadillac CTS

2014 Cadillac CTS. Photo courtesy General Motors

In case you have been locked in a closet or was lost in the woods for the past week, the New York Auto Show has been going on and quite a few great cars have been revealed. I have to say that I was totally shocked when I saw the 2014 Cadillac CTS Revealed.

Before I say anything else, in the interest of full disclosure I will admit I'm not a huge Cadillac fan. It's not that I think the company doesn't produce some nice cars but it's more about aesthetics and my philosophies on conspicuous consumption. The first time I saw an Escalade was in a college marketing course. I was complete repulsed by the pure bling of the thing.  When I saw one in person I quickly realized it was just a slightly modified Suburban, adding to my distaste for it.

I had heard that Cadillac was going in a new design direction that involved "cleaning up" the old design language. Cleaning up is putting it lightly. Cadillac dumped all the bling crap and the sharp corners galore found on the CTS and instead went for cleaner lines and a subdued grace that makes the car look higher class and more dangerous, yet it's still recognizable as a Cadillac.

And now I find myself in the strange situation where I am falling in love with a Cadillac sedan. Am I really that old or is Cadillac striking out in a brave new direction? Technically by some people's definition I could be classified as a member of Gen Y, so I think it's more of the latter. In my opinion Cadillac really is going to pose a threat to the big German three luxury automakers, which I say is a good thing mostly because BMW has gotten sloppy with its designs (other than the 6-Series, which I just love the look of). Maybe Cadillac will shake the Bavarian out of its deep design slumber, but then again if Cadillac keeps improving their cars in this direction I might not care.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The New Mercedes S-Class Will Make You Feel Like You Went to Automotive Heaven

2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class interior. Photo courtesy Daimler

Have you seen the photos of the exterior of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class Exterior? Mercedes has been putting out some great designs lately and the new S-Class is no exception. As can be expected with the flagship sedan, the S-Class delivers a plethora of creature comforts and snazzy new technology that will keep everyone who drives or rides in the car satisfied in just about every way imaginable.

Mercedes is calling the new S-Class "The Essence of Luxury" as part of its marketing campaign. All I know is I wouldn't mind spending an afternoon rolling around in one, even being driven around by some guy named Alfred or something like that. The car's seats will massage and warm you and they are not just ventilated but also feature a reverse ventilation feature which draws in cool air in the car's cabin to cool off hot seats. And buyers get five different choices for backseats, including an Executive seat that can recline back as much as 43.5 degrees!

The 2014 S-Class will also come with an optional perfuming feature that allows the driver or passengers the ability to release a perfume into the car's cabin to cover up unpleasant smells. Apparently the perfuming system's controls allows you to change the perfume's intensity for those extra bad smells.

What if the passengers want to all watch different things on the car's entertainment system? Mercedes has thought of that quandary and has outfitted the S-Class with the ability to stream different entertainment features to each of the DVD screens. So you can watch The Hangover while the other backseat passenger goes shoe shopping while you're stuck in rush hour traffic. Well done, Mercedes, well done...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Installing Exhaust Headers in the Spring

Image copyright: Hector Landeata, stock.xchng
Modifying a car can be a lot of fun even if it does involve some knuckle-splitting work. When you are young and dumb you make some mistakes when it comes to modifications, but hopefully those mistakes teach you a lesson. This post is all about one such mistake I made.

I had a cat-back exhaust system installed on a car of mine. After that installation job, which was done by a professional because of the weld joints that needed to be done right, I ordered and decided to install some exhaust headers. The only problem was that it was springtime and I didn't have a garage to work inside.

I live in Utah where spring really is just an extension of winter. We don't get a real spring where it is nice, moderate weather. Normally it goes from snowing one day to almost hot the next and so forth. The day I had set aside to install the headers turned out to be frigid, and it started to rain when I was partway through the project.

Laying on a cold cement driveway is a good way to chill yourself to the bone. Luckily I had a friend with me, so we took turns laying under the car and freezing our backsides. Installing an exhaust header isn't difficult work, unless you are freezing cold and it's hard to even hold a wrench steady. That and the catalytic converter on the car hooked up directly to the header, and it used springs in its connection which were difficult to work with in the cold.

So what's the point of this story? First of all, it's best to work on your car in good weather, or at least to have a garage you can sit inside out of the elements. I would have killed to have had an electric space heater and a dry garage. Since then I don't even change my oil outside when the weather isn't nice. Trust me, a frozen back is not worth it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

60 Years of the Corvette

2013 Chevrolet Corvette. Image courtesy General Motors

Anyone who has actually driven a Chevrolet Corvette understands that it's a special car and not just an everyday driving machine. The sports car that was almost canned in the beginning by General Motors has become the company's crown jewel, being easily the most recognizable model GM has ever produced.

The Corvette is turning 60 and there's quite a bit of fanfare around the anniversary. I ran across this interesting video from Car and Driver about an exhibit on the Corvette that's being held at the Petersen Automotive Museum. It's long but if you are even a little bit of a Corvette fan it's worth watching.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mitsubishi is on the Ropes in America

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X

Back in the day I owned a couple of Mitsubishi vehicles. One was a Mighty Max pickup truck. It was an extremely cheap vehicle, and I'm not talking about just the price. The good thing about the truck was I had no misgivings about throwing whatever kind of crap in the bed because nothing could have made that truck look worse.

The second Mitsubishi I owned was an old Montero. Even though it was pretty Spartan inside, that truck was fun to drive and was great at off-roading. I still kick myself for selling it, but I had my reasons when I did.

Just as I have mixed emotions about my two Mitsubishi vehicles, I have mixed emotions about the company. Some of the products are amazing and exciting, like the Evolution or the Pajero (it was called the Montero here, and yes it's still very much available in other parts of the world). But Mitsubishi lately has been producing some pretty crappy vehicles. The quality isn't bad, despite the overall impression Americans have of the brand's quality, but the vehicles are just so odd I don't know what to make of them. For example the Outlander is a vehicle I just can't quite categorize, and not in a good way. I know some of the most revolutionary vehicles have been hard to categorize at first, but Mitsubishi lately hasn't been putting out revolutionary vehicles.

This is the kind of fun you have in a Mitsubishi Evolution
I read an article on Jalopnik the other day where they very briefly touched on the whole Mitsubishi mess. According to them, Mitsubishi is considering several new vehicles to amp things up in the Americas as well. One of those possible vehicles is a full-size SUV, which Jalopnik of course hates the sound of (Jalopnik very much has a bias against family vehicles for reasons I can only guess at). Personally, I think a full-size SUV would be a smart move. Other Japanese automakers have moved into that space with some good success, so why not Mitsubishi? There's a huge market for them (and I'm in that market). Larger vehicles provide larger profit margins for automakers, particularly full-size SUVs and trucks, and right now Mitsubishi needs more cash in a bad way. Just look at how Porsche has done by producing a mid-size SUV, the Cayenne, which now makes up half of the company's sales in the United States! Like I've said before, if producing less exhilarating but more practical vehicles keeps an automaker in business so it can keep making those exhilarating vehicles, then it's a good thing. Not everyone can afford nor wants to drive a hepped-up, turbocharged rallycross vehicle to work each day and if automotive enthusiasts can't understand that, then they're out of touch with reality.

Of course I'm also excited that Mitsubishi is saying it wants to also produce a replacement for the Evolution. My mind could go crazy thinking about what the company could churn out as a replacement (likely a hybrid high-performance vehicle, given the racing tech we've seen from Mitsubishi lately). But it doesn't matter if the company can't stay profitable. Large SUVs are profitable, as long as Mitsubishi plays its cards right.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Body Roll and Riding With Friends: a Childhood Memory

1970 Buick GSX

Last week I was writing an article about handling modifications for cars. Of course the subject of body roll came up, that thing that automotive enthusiasts absolutely hate. Body roll is when the body of a vehicle literally rolls in the opposite direction a car is turning. What ends up happening if you roll the body too much is the tires on the inside of the turn actually pick up off the ground. Let me tell you that having any of your tires leave the ground is bad. You can lose control and possibly roll the vehicle, plus you at least temporarily lose forward momentum.

There are all kinds of technologies to help prevent this from happening, such as stabilizer bars and chassis braces. But back in the day when I was a kid most cars (particularly the huge land yacht American cars) handled like garbage. Those cars had body rolls like the Biggest Loser.

A strange childhood memory came flooding into my mind as I was writing the article. When I was a kid and I would go somewhere with friends, all of us sitting side-by-side in the backseat of a mom's car, we would play a little game with the car's body roll. Every time we went around a turn we would all lean with the roll like we were on a roller coaster. It sounds stupid now, but for some reason the game was fun. We would even scream like we were on some amusement park ride.

Thinking about it now, I realize that none of those moms were taking any of those turns at more than 15 mph. And I remember that even if we had tried to not sway from side-to-side in the car we wouldn't have been able to stop our sideways motion. Cars really do handle better these days, considering I have driven vehicles where I can take a 90 degree turn at 25 or 30 mph and the tires barely squeal. Anyone who complains that cars these days aren't as good as back in the day needs to stop looking through the rose colored glasses.

But I do have to admit I have a fantasy about buying an old muscle car, be it a Chevy, Buick, Ford, Dodge, etc. With a huge V8 and tire-evaporating rear-wheel-drive, I would attack the car's suspension and chassis with vigor, tightening things up so the body roll would be almost eliminated. Or I guess I could pick up a new Dodge Charger SRT8 that has a modern suspension system and have both knuckle-dragging power and incredible handling all in one package. But there's something cool about having old muscle, especially old muscle that handles better than you would expect. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Risks of Racing Supercars

Porsche Carrera GT. Photo courtesy Porsche Cars North America

A while ago when I was purchasing a vehicle, everyone at the dealership where I made my purchase was buzzing about what had happened the day before. Apparently some guy had ordered a Porsche Carrera GT (this was back when the cars were brand new) and had come by to pick up the German supercar. I wasn't surprised when the dealership employees told me that the guy also came with an enclosed trailer, simply loading the Carrera GT into the back and towing it off instead of driving the car away. I'm sure these guys were thinking that if they had bought a supercar that costs as much as many people's homes they would speed off into the sunset in a cloud of tire smoke. The guy who bought the car was likely thinking of its value, since he likely planned to drive it as little as possible and mostly garage it until later.

There are plenty of people who think that supercars should be driven and driven hard. Unfortunately there are plenty of supercar owners who do not subscribe to this philosophy. There are owners who take their cars rally racing or even on a challenging racetrack like the Nurburgring. Anyone who knows about the 'Ring also knows it's a challenging track, and one Porsche Carrera GT owner paid for this challenge in the form of some new wheels and bodywork. Check out the video below, which unfortunately doesn't show the crash but does show the aftermath in excellent detail. Would you drive your supercar fast on a track?

Friday, March 15, 2013

How to Look Rich Driving a Lexus ES

Behold the poser vehicle of choice! Photo courtesy of Lexus.

I've found that there are many people in life who go around trying to act like they make drastically more money than they actually bring in. Over time I've developed several theories about why people try to act like they're rich, and in the end I've concluded that such poser activities are pathetic, foolish and completely misguided. In fact many of the richest people I've ever known try to downplay their wealth by making efforts to not stick out amongst the crowd.

While I don't understand why some people have this undying urge to appear wealthy, I have started to notice a pattern in how many of these people put on the image of wealth without actually having the money to back it up. These men avoid "dressing down" at really any time and instead favor cheap pleated chinos, penny loafers and polyester polo shirts you would find on the mannequins at JC Penny's. But this is a car blog and not a fashion blog, so back to cars. When it comes to vehicle choice there seems to be one vehicle these posers gravitate towards: the Lexus ES.

Why is the Lexus ES the poser vehicle of choice? For starters to the untrained eye it looks like a big, expensive vehicle because of the stylized "L" plastered on the grill and deck lid. Once, many years ago, I had a coworker literally tell me that the cheapest Lexus cost "like $70,000." Yeah, maybe in Australia, but not here in the U.S. of A. Currently the 2013 Lexus ES 350 has an MSRP of about $36,000. You can't get a BMW 3-Series for that cheap! In fact, a fully-loaded Honda Oddysey Touring or a Chevrolet Suburban 1500 4WD costs significantly more.Why is the ES so damn cheap? Sadly, the car is a sheep in wolf's clothing. While it looks like a luxury car, it really is a near-luxury vehicle. Truth be told, the last few generations of the ES have been incredibly mechanically similar to a Toyota Camry, just with wood trim, a V6 engine and leather seats (and you can get a V6 engine and leather seats in a Camry).

So these poser guys buy a Lexus ES 350 hoping the average guy sees the Lexus insignia and the leather seats, takes a dump in his pants and automatically assumes the other guy's car is even nearly as nice and as expensive as the Lexus LS.

And then you have the bragging about how high-performance the Lexus ES 350 is, because we all know so many people who drag race their V6 Toyota Camry at the local strip on the weekend. Most luxury sedans pack at least a decent punch, even with all the heavy creature comforts weighing them down. The 2013 Lexus ES 350's engine produces an average 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The car also features unresponsive steering approved by the Blue Hair Club and a suspension setup that will have your eyes glazing over within two miles of driving. Trust me, no automotive enthusiast's heart beats faster upon thinking about driving the Lexus ES 350.

But the automotive ignorant don't get this. In fact, I once had one of these poser Lexus ES 350 drivers try to tell me some B.S. story about how he bought a Porsche Cayenne Turbo but sold it after a few months because it wasn't a very good vehicle. It's not like I stay up at night dreaming of owning a Cayenne, but the story was so ridiculous I had to bite my own tongue to keep from bursting out laughing. Why anyone would give up the blistering acceleration, cold-as-ice stopping power and road-gripping ability of a Cayenne Turbo for a Lexus ES 350 is completely inexplicable, except that the person is completely lying through his teeth. Posers don't know how to pull the wool over the eyes of someone who actually knows about cars instead of just vaguely knowing about car brands and not much else.

But I digress. The point is that there are so many people who buy the Lexus ES 350 to make themselves look rich. I'm not necessarily saying the ES 350 is a bad car, but then again I'm not really saying it's a good car. It's kind of like Wonder Bread, the stuff that thankfully is no more: it's just okay. While some people might be fooled by a Lexus ES 350, nobody who really knows cars will be impressed by an ES 350 owner's complete lack of automotive taste or pathetic attempt at appearing wealthy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How NOT to Load a Car into a Trailer!

I'll be brief: the following video shows exactly how you shouldn't load a car of any kind into a trailer. They make ramps for that for a reason. A group of not very bright guys decide to jimmy-rig their own ramp out of wood, an old ladder, old wheels and such, so they can load an old Nissan Prairie into a trailer (sporting a nice set of green painted steelies, I must point out). What happens in the end is... well, you'll see.


What Whiny Porsche Fans Can Learn From Saab

2012 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Photo courtesy Porsche Cars North America

If there's one thing in life I hate more than anything it's whiners. We all know people who are never satisfied with anything, who always pine after "the good ol' days" when everything was obviously so incredibly superior and who find fault in so much that surrounds them. Sadly there are many Porsche fans who fall into the whiner category.

I love Porsches and don't have anything against the brand or the culture in general, just to get things straight before I continue.

2013 Porsche Boxster S. Photo courtesy Porsche Cars North America
The Porsche fan whining picked up when the 911 switched from air-cooling to water-cooling, with people declaring the car was "ruined" and wouldn't be as reliable. I know Porsche fans and owners who still swear the only "real" 911s are air-cooled models. In more modern times Porsche fans complained like hell when the Boxster was introduced in the '90s. These people called the Boxster all kinds of names and some still refuse to accept it as a "real" Porsche. The truth is the Boxster likely saved Porsche from going into bankruptcy, and who knows where that would have led.

In recent years there has been quite a bit of whining going on about the Porsche Cayenne and Panamera. Personally, most of the people I've known who complain about these two models are people who haven't driven them, while those who have say they are amazing vehicles (especially the Turbo models). But of course people complain that they are front-engine, larger vehicles that are better suited for everyday driving and so that means they're not "real" Porsches (okay, there are other reasons cited for this not-a-real-Porsche classification, but they're just as silly in my opinion).

2013 Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Photo courtesy Porsche Cars North America
Even if you think the Cayenne is ridiculous and you lust after a 911, you can't get away from the fact that Porsche is now flush with cash thanks to its SUV and sedan. In the United States alone half of all Porsches sold are Cayennes, making it a huge cash cow for the company. I say anything that allows Porsche to build more versions of the 911 is a good thing, not to mention other high-performance models like the Cayman R.

These whiny Porsche fans could learn a thing or two from watching Saab and its ugly, slow death as an automaker. Saab was like Porsche back in the day: both automakers produced very few cars that fit into a niche in the market. The big difference has been that Porsche has expanded out into more mainstream product channels, meanwhile Saab engaged in some badge engineering with a Subaru Impreza wagon and a Chevy Trailblazer of all things! Saab could still be alive today if it had produced vehicles like its too-little-too-late 9-4 back when things weren't so grim (and it wasn't owned by GM). Porsche fans could be crying about the death of their beloved automaker at the hands of GM or some other automotive behemoth that loves to buy companies and then destroy those companies like a child pulling the legs off an ant before frying it slowly with a magnifying glass.

So to the Porsche fans who are still whining and bitching and moaning about the Cayenne, the Panamera and other upcoming "baby" versions of these models, I say stop your whining and enjoy the fact Porsche is around and doing so well!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Duesenberg - the Original "Duesy"

Duesenberg Model Y

Have you ever heard anyone say "that's a real duesy" when they're talking about something that outdoes other things of its kind? What you likely don't know is that the term actually comes from an old American luxury automobile, the Duesenberg. The company and its cars were lovingly given the nickname "Duesy" which was instantly grafted into English slang.

Even more-so than today, in the early 1900s European cars were revered for their refinement and luxury while American cars were looked down upon as more "common" and therefore inferior. Despite what I was taught in school (thank you public education system) Henry Ford was not the inventor of the automobile -- that honor is usually reserved for German engineer Karl Benz. So Europe was home to the first automobile, giving Europeans a little bit of a jump start on the development of automotive technology. Henry Ford was the one who figured out how to make cars more affordable through assembly line manufacturing.

Jay Leno with his Duesenberg Model Y
In any case, American cars couldn't get any respect since the Model T and other cars from the US weren't exactly high-class. That's where the Duesenberg changed things. The first car produced by the company, the Model A, produced between 90 and 100 horsepower with the first mass-produced straight-eight engine from the United States. The Model A came with a chrome nickel steel frame and four-wheel hydraulic brakes among other amenities not found on other American cars. The Model J, which was produced several years later, represented the pinnacle of engineering and design success for Duesenberg and was the car that cemented "Duesy" into our everyday language. The car produced 265 horsepower with a naturally aspirated eight-cylinder engine, but a supercharged version was available for those who wanted even more power. It was the most expensive American automobile to date, costing up to around $250,000 in today's dollars. Car aficionado Jay Leno owns several Duesenbergs, which he says perform like modern cars when it comes to acceleration, handling and braking. Really the Duesenberg set out a blueprint for where the auto industry was to go, even though the company went under during the Great Depression.

So remember the next time you or someone else says "that's a duesy!" where the term originates.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Disneyland and Cars

Cars Land at the California Adventure
Not too long ago I was able to enjoy a short trip to California, with some time spent at Disneyland. One thing I love about the resort is there really is a little bit of everything for everyone. Of course I'm a car guy, but the good news is there is car stuff at Disneyland. Anyone who has been to the park in the past few decades or so knows about Autotopia, the ride where you get to drive an internal combustion miniature car through an outdoor course. The car is kept on the pathway with some rails, which you can slam into pretty hard if you really jerk the wheel. Autotopia is a tribute to some old-time car culture, including the retro designs of the cars you get to drive. If you haven't been to Disneyland, I highly suggest going and checking out Autotopia.

There are a number of automotive related pieces of merchandise you can purchase at the park, like an I-5 Mickey Mouse road sign and a pin that's a Mickey Mouse made of car parts.

The Cozy Cone Motel
California Adventure has one new area that is all about automotive stuff: Cars Land. Remember the Pixar Cars movie? Some people loved it, others hated it. Well, the movies have been popular enough that Disney built a whole new section of the California Adventure that is a recreation of Radiator Springs. I have to say I was a little skeptical about Cars Land before I really spent some time there since I'm not a huge fan of Cars (but I don't hate it, either). You get to walk down the smooth-as-glass main street Lightning McQueen paved himself and see the various shops owned by the citizens of Radiator Springs. You can even have a meal at Flo's V8 Cafe (although I skipped that once I saw the outrageous prices).

I did, however, pop for a drink at the Cozy Cone Motel, mostly because the drink came in an orange traffic cone that for some inexplicable reason still seems cool. One of the shops there carried all kinds of automotive merchandise, including books about Route 66 that looked interesting. I will definitely have to go back to Cars Land and take it all in with more detail since I didn't have as much time as I would have liked, or as much money as I would have liked for my trip.

As you can see, the Cozy Cone has cone-themed decorations everywhere

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Car That Detects Cyclists and Brakes for Them?

Image courtesy Volvo Car Group

For those of you who don't follow the news in the automotive world, you should know the Geneva Motorshow is going on right now. Geneva always features some big launches that make the show quite exciting and this year is no exception. We have seen the unveiling of Ferrari's new supercar, Volkswagen's new incredibly fuel-efficient vehicle and a new safety technology from Volvo that's caught the world by surprise.

Image courtesy Volvo Car Group
Lately Volvo Car Group has been moving and shaking something fierce. You likely have seen the S60 wolf commercials and have wondered when the company turned so aggressive. Has Volvo shed its boxy and safety-forward image?

Yes to the former and when hell freezes over to the latter.

2013 Volvo V40. Image courtesy Volvo Car Group
Volvo cars are looking more curvacious and downright attractive, while at the same time they are still leading the world in safety. The car company that invented the three-point seat belt, the airbag and the backup camera has shocked the world with another first: a detection system not only for pedestrians but cyclists as well!

Every year cyclists are seriously injured or killed by careless drivers, which is why this technology is sorely needed. There are a growing number of cyclists on the roads in recent years as people try to cut commuting costs, stay in shape and avoid road congestion. Volvo's detection system not only sees cyclists, but it also has the ability to stop the car to avoid a collision. Check out the video below to see the technology in action.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Automotive Infatuation is on Etsy!

I'm proud to announce that I have established an Automotive Infatuation shop on Etsy. This is one of many steps that will take this blog to a different level, transforming it into something more than just your average blog that talks, rants and reports on cars.

Check out the shop by clicking here. New items will be added all the time, so bookmark it and check back often.

I know, with a name like Etsy the site must only appeal to women who like silk flowers and teacups with flapper girls on them, right? That's what I thought initially, until my wife showed me there are a quite a few "manyly" things on the site. It makes sense, though, since wives, girlfriends and daughters all buy things for the men in their life. If they're already on Etsy, it's a great place to appeal to them. From what I've been able to tell, there is an undercurrent of men who like cars, sports and such on the site.

So go check out the store and comment on this post if you want to tell me what you think. I have been doing art for years and years and have drawn a few cars, but until now I haven't really started spreading my wings, using my passion for cars as a constant inspiration for my art. So far I'm liking the results. Like I said before, this is only the beginning, but so far I think it's a good start. Oh, and all the pictures in this post are products anyone can buy from the store, so I hope you like them!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why Wagons are Better Than Sedans and Crossovers

2013 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon. Image Courtesy General Motors.

Before I started having kids I thought sedans and coupes were the only vehicles to own and drive. I was amazed that having one kid filled up part of the backseat and most of the trunk of our sedan, which seemed so big before. When we had a second baby it became apparent to me that we needed something with much more cargo space. We looked at SUVs, crossovers and minivans, but that performance hunger screamed when I drove those other vehicles. Many of those larger vehicles made me feel like I was literally driving the short bus. They took forever to stop (because of their high curb weight and wimpy brake systems), many had significant body roll and some even felt as if they would topple over with each right turn made. Crossovers were new then and were billed as a great SUV alternative, but one look at their puny cargo and third row space made me laugh.

It was then that I discovered the automotive beauty of wagons. Unfortunately most wagons here in America don't come with third rows. Remember the Ford Taurus X? That might have been the last third row wagon sold here. What wagons do offer is humongous cargo spaces, a low center of gravity for good road grip and brisk acceleration (at least from some). This is why people who want on-road performance but also need cargo go for wagons. We bought a wagon and thoroughly enjoyed it until we needed more space. I still consider getting another wagon in the future, especially if I need another vehicle with great cargo space.  
2012 Volvo XC70 cargo space. Image Courtesy Volvo of North America.

There are other benefits of owning a wagon. Overall they get better gas mileage than SUVs and crossovers (except the Dodge Magnum SRT8, which is just plain a blast to drive despite its poor fuel economy). Their tires are smaller and significantly cheaper to replace. Wagons in general stop faster and have much tighter turning radiuses (making U-turns easier to perform). Wagons also have small blind spots and a lower step-in height for easier entry and exit. In essence wagons are lighter on your pocketbook and easier to drive.

Sure, there are people who think wagons are ugly mommy-mobiles, but many SUVs have turned into just that. Just look at the Cadillac Escalade for the biggest offender.

2013 Audi RS6 Avant. Image courtesy Volkswagen Group.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Why So Many Vehicle Recalls These Days?

Some people dread finding this in their mail. Photo credit: Steven Symes.

Yesterday I received in the mail the dreaded recall letter for my Honda. I had read in the news not too long ago that the NHTSA was looking into complaints about a safety problem, something I myself had encountered with the vehicle before. So it wasn't really a surprise when I opened the mailbox and found this notice sitting inside. Instead I was glad Honda was owning up to the problem (whether by choice or force) and I will get a remedy free of charge.

Vehicle recalls are in the news all the time, or at least in the automotive news. The larger ones often bubble up to mainstream news outlets. I notice with some amusement the amount of panic a fairly routine recall can cause among the car ignorant public. I've also had quite a few people ask me if cars are so much better these days why they are getting recalled more often than back in the day.

The answer is fairly simple. Part of the issue is that the NHTSA and automakers themselves are getting much better at catching manufacturing defects in vehicles. Part of it is that automakers have shifted their philosophy when it comes to recalls and public relations. It used to be that most automakers thought recalling a car would place a negative mark on the brand, which in turn would drive consumers away. Does anyone remember the Ford Pinto mess? Rather than just fix the Pinto, Ford had a brilliant idea: say nothing and just pay off the victims' families. The bean counters at the Big Blue Oval thought such a decision would save the company money -- innocent people's lives be damned! In the end, the Pinto is still a black eye for Ford, not because the car had problems but because Ford knew about them and did nothing, letting people die needlessly. Let it suffice to say that's not a good PR policy.

My whole issue with my Honda is a prime example of why these recalls are a good thing. The problem with the vehicle is that a fault with the ignition's interlock lever allows you to remove the key from the ignition when the transmission is in Drive instead of Park. This can cause the vehicle to roll away and crash into something or someone. It also can cause you to needlessly call a tow truck when your wife thinks the battery is dead (hypothetically speaking, of course). The thing is this isn't a new problem for Honda. I first drove around in an early '80s Prelude, and that thing allowed you to take the key out of the ignition when the transmission was in Drive. The only thing is there was no huge recall for the Preludes (at least not at that point, and the car was about fifteen years old). I would much rather an automaker just remedy a known issue instead of looking the other way as if everything is fine.

So that's why there are so many vehicle recalls these days. Cars are much safer and more reliable than they used to be, and I don't see any end in sight to this increase in overall vehicle quality.

Check out this video of the famous crash test that proved the fatal defect in the Ford Pinto: